New Visual Demands
In our computer-run society, where an increasing number of jobs require people to sit in front of a computer screen for 8-12 hours a day, a whole new demand has been placed on the eyes, the visual system, and the body.  Recent studies show that more than 15 million Americans suffer from eye or vision problems (Computer Vision Syndrome or 'CVS') while using the computer, and that these computer-related problems are on the rise.  Most people who suffer from this condition do not even realize they have it.

What is CVS?
Computer vision syndrome (CVS) is characterized by eyestrain associated with using the computer for extended periods of time. Symptoms of CVS include eye irritation, such as dry eye; red, itchy, and watery eyes; fatigue, including heaviness of the eyelids or forehead; and difficulty in focusing the eyes. Other symptoms of CVS are headaches, neck aches, backaches and muscle spasms.

Why does CVS occur?
A personís vision is not suited for staring at a computer screen for many hours. Computer screens are made up of pixels or tiny dots, on which the eye can not lock focus. The computer user must therefore focus and refocus to keep the images sharp. This results in receptive stress of the eye muscles.

Additionally, when you concentrate while performing a near task, such as reading or using the computer , the frequency of your blinking decreases, which causes your eyes to dry out.  As a result, your ability to focus diminishes and your vision may blur, which can cause headaches and other painful symptoms.

Can computers damage your eyes?
No. There is no clinical evidence that indicates that computers cause long-term vision problems. However, it has been suggested that symptoms of CVS , such as eye irritation, fatigue and difficulty in focusing, occur as a result of external conditions that relate to the computer screen. These conditions may include lack of blinking, poor lighting, improper placement of equipment and supplies, pre-existing eye problems and improper eye care.

Are there over-the-counter treatments available that can alleviate the symptoms of CVS?
Yes. Artificial Tears are available to provide comfort for dry eyes associated with CVS, or dry eye symptoms in general.  There are many artificial tears on the market, but in our experience, the two most effective are "Refresh Tears" by Allergan and Bausch & Lomb Computer Eye Drops.  These drops provide lubrication and have been shown to relieve tired, strained, and dry eyes.  They are designed to be used 3-4 times a day, but are safe enough to use as often as needed.

Can CVS be prevented?
Yes. When working at a computer, there are several easy preventive measures that can reduce eyestrain:

  1. Position the monitor 19 to 24 inches away from your eyes with the top of the screen at or below eye level (your head should be positioned straight ahead with your eyes looking down slightly).  This is the natural and comfortable position for your eyes to perform near tasks (similar to when you read).  With the monitor positioned incorrectly i.e. at or above the level of your eyes, you will put an unnecessary strain on your eye muscles, and you may even unconsciously tilt your head back slightly (causing neck and back discomfort) in an effort to make your eyes more comfortable.  As well, position the monitor straight in front of yourself instead of off to the side;   
  2. Arrange light sources in a position that will minimize glare and reflections on the screen; avoid fluorescent lights, if possible, if you suspect or know that they make your eyes uncomfortable.  Use the VISOR TEST to determine if lights are a problem.  To perform the visor test:  cup your hands around your eyes like a visor from a baseball cap.  It there is an instantaneous relief by blocking bright lights, you should make the needed changes to eliminate the bright lights;
  3. Blink frequently and completely to moisturize your eyes.  As mentioned, when you concentrate on near tasks, you blink less, which can cause dryness, irritation, and/or grittiness.  Additionally, many people do not blink completely.  That is, they "flutter blink" and only close their eyes 3/4 of the way.  Over a prolonged period, this incomplete blink can cause a dry area to form on the lower part of the cornea, again, causing discomfort.  If you suspect that you may not be blinking completely, you must train yourself to blink properly.  To do this you must consciously think about closing your eyes each time you blink.  You can even put a post-it on your computer screen that says "BLINK" to remind you.  As you condition yourself, you will eventually blink completely without thinking about it;
  4. Use Artificial Tears to supplement inadequate lubrication if frequent and complete blinking do not provide the necessary moisture (see below);
  5. Take regular "mini" vision breaks from your computer to relax your eye muscles.  Specifically, take a break from looking at anything within arm's reach...look at something in the distance i.e. out the window or across the room.  A two or three minute break every 15 min. to 1/2 hour can make an enormous difference in your eye comfort, especially at the end of the day when your whole system is wearing down;
  6. Use the correct eyeglasses.  Eyeglasses prescribed for general use may not be acceptable for computer work.  You may need specialized occupational lenses for your unique computer demands and work distances.

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